I would like to depart from the normal expression of my thoughts and hand the blog over to my oldest daughter, Rosie, a resident of London and passionate civil rights advocate. Rosie kindly gave me permission to post her impassioned private response to my latest blog entry concerning creepy guys. I received A LOT of feedback from this blog in many forms –conversations, emails, formal written responses, yet, in all, I believe her response strikes to the core of the issue that must be shared.
First, a few things to give some context:
- In spite of the fact the primary intent of the blog was either poorly communicated or misunderstood, with said intent being the use of all generalized terms that tend to classify large groups of people in general, unproductive and stereotypical fashion, she does strike at the more troubling deeper societal concern: Patriarchal power and practice that many believe necessitates the need to identify the “creepy guy;” which, upon reflection, is a gravely more important issue than the stance one takes on the use of the word creep.
- Secondly, it is important to note the “conversation” she refers to me having -it never happened -it was a facebook post, stating the creepiness of all older men, which was mistaken for a conversation. In reality, I never responded to the “facebooker” at all; yet Rosie’s points are still very well taken and appreciated.
- Lastly, if you want to hear an EXCELLENT podcast from an expert on fear, Gavin de Becker, and in particular the fear women experience on a daily basis, this is a must listen. Quite frankly, as I come to a better understanding of this fear and educate myself, it simultaneously makes me both very sad and very angry. I so appreciate those like Rosie who can assertively state their point of view and better inform the rest of us all the while not taking shit from anyone. I wish we had more like her.
So sit back and allow my girl to unpack on her pops…
I just want to unpack my thoughts after I read your blog, so I’m not directly attacking your post or you as a writer at all, but it was a trigger for me, and these are the thoughts that I want to express after reading it.
A woman told you about her experiences of unwanted sexual attention from men and you centered it on you. With privilege, sometimes what we need to do is listen.
As women, from the time we are sexualized in the eyes of society we experience ‘creepy’ men daily in the form of microaggressions. We are primed from our early teens to behave in ways that make us innately respond with non-aggression (out of fear) and de-escalate. This is basically instinct for most women.
This is from a well written piece on de-escalation, and how men can struggle to understand it: “Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s age actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore. We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation.”
But it doesn’t have to be as explicit as a threat. It can be a look, a comment, a smirk. The microaggressions women experience on a daily basis contribute to the institutionalised construct of patriarchy. Without the sexualization of women on the very micro of levels, the patriarchy wouldn’t exist. Think of sexism like building blocks, the first block is the ‘creepy’ look a man gives you that makes you feel unsafe, the next block is the slap on the ass, the next the threat when you rejected his date invitation, the next is the missed promotion and wage gap, so on and so forth until you have every element that contributes to the marginalization of women. When we are addressing institutions like sexism, every block must crumble, including the smallest of microaggressions, and women need to platform their voice and not de-escalate. We must feel safe to voice when we are receiving unwanted sexual attention from men, because this is beneficial for the macro. However, the trigger for most men is Not me! I’m not creepy! I’m not the problem!
Women do not owe you anything. Women are entitled to think someone is creepy. I know you would have not viewed this conversation as a big deal, but when a woman is telling you of her experiences of unwanted sexual attention, instead of victimizing yourself and tone-policing her (or language-policing in this instance), listen. It’s not about you – and the usage of the word creepy is not on our radar. We have other things to worry about (like smashing the patriarchy!)
Being ‘politically correct’ (or the preferred word, intersectional) is hard, and it’s not easy. The past year especially I’ve spent unpacking my privilege, my whiteness, and how that has affected my perceptions and experiences in every single aspect of my life. When a person of color says something that I view as attacking, and my first instinct is to defend myself (I’m not racist! I’m not the problem here! Not all white people! White people have struggles too you know!) and center it on myself because as white people that is what is taught and what is accepted our entire lives – that our experiences are more important and worthy of a voice (thus it’s an easy mode to default back on – and because you know how stubborn I am anyway). When in fact, the most valuable thing we can learn is “I hear you.” We need to start breaking those building blocks and learn to be an ally with even the most mundane of conversations. But it’s not easy because it’s so damn uncomfortable and tempting to go back to our default response – especially as we get older and think our worldviews are correct and solidified and that we have the right to shout the loudest.
Sexism and racism are societal constructs. None of us want to consider that we might be sexist or racists on an individual level, but we must accept we have been brought up in a white supremacist patriarchy and we have innate privilege (white women do not hold male privilege as we don’t stand to benefit from the institution of patriarchy, but we hold white privilege, and this dynamic of power is strong). White people have always had a platform for their voices to be heard, white males particularly. I really love your writing, but I think it can be a little toxic when you are using your platform in a way that’s projecting males as ‘victims.’ There are other posts (on police and people of color) that were also difficult for me to read. We must always be unpacking our worldviews and how they are evolving and changing within the scope of intersectionality and feminism, in a personal and a communications context. I learned about privilege and intersectionality in my Intercultural Coms class – I’m really grateful my professor introduced that curriculum as it started to emerge academically, but I have so much more learning to do. We are all learning and we are all trying to do better; we all CAN do better and it starts with listening and with conversations and blog posts and so on.
Here’s a really great article on being a ‘responsible’ devil’s advocate, I really recommend it: https://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2013/08/10/how-to-be-a-responsible-devils-advocate/
And here’s the de-escalation article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-kelly/the-thing-all-women-do-you-dont-know-about_b_8630416.html
Anyway, that has OBVIOUSLY digressed away from your blog post, which I am not attacking, but stuff I have wanted to share for a while, that you don’t have to take on board (and it’s fine if you don’t want to) but I wanted to unpack with you.
I’m honored. Thank you.
“White people have always had a platform for their voice.”
This is untrue. Perhaps recently, but definitely not always. There was a time in history when black people were the technological superiority and they had white slaves. Times have changed certainly, but it’s not been or guaranteed to be a constant.
And, are we sure that this “patriarchy” has always stemmed from sexualization? Really? Have not there been any men of great stature, responsibility, honor, or authority that were not “creepy” or employing sexuality to “keep down” women?
The post feels passionate and not totally incorrect, but lacking the full scope of the reality of the entire issue.
I’m not a creepy guy. I’m also a Christian who takes being morally and ethically “good” according to Christ very seriously. So I am a minority?
I’m going to take a quick moment to highlight the irony of what Joe has commented as it seems he missed multiple points of the post and there is a need for some reiteration- namely “It’s not about you” and “ the most valuable thing we can learn is ‘I hear you.’”
I have read this blog post many-a-time, it is one of my favorites here (sorry Jimmy, I realize it is your blog and this is a guest author) and I have little to add to this post itself. I appreciate the putting-to-words the thoughts and experiences that many women share, but I have nothing new to contribute to the post itself. However, every time I read it, I get to the bottom and see Joe’s comment, and it is incredibly disheartening because it has boiled this post down to “passionate” (read: a woman expressing her feelings) and “not totally incorrect” (read: but partly or mostly incorrect). Even though I am interacting with that comment 3years after it was made, I figured there was some validity in continuing the dialogue, as it has interested me enough at this point in the future, others after me might have some interest as well.
And so, I’m going to take a long moment to highlight some points on Joe’s comment and how it is either missing the point of the post, or contributing to the experiences that women face on the daily which would lead to the development of said post:
-Context is important, it is my understanding that the author was raised in the United States, where, yes, “White people have always had a platform for their voice.” By trying to shoe-horn exceptions into the author’s statement without her experiences or context in mind; Joe is discrediting her, and on a low-level gaslighting her to future audiences. While the author is pointing out that women need to platform their voice, this is working to erase it.
-Fair point to Joe; I believe that the patriarchy of today has a primary focus on sexualization, but that it was developed from a patriarchy formed of control, which sexualization falls under. However, men who were of great stature, responsibility, honor, etc would not have fed in to the patriarchy because people who actually have and act on those qualities are not about to put a priority on considering themselves superior to others. At the same time, people are not all good or all bad in every facet of their lives and to boil one down to be either “creepy” or some upstanding citizen worthy of honor, is doing a disservice to the complexity of humans.
-If you read the above post and feel it is absolutely necessary to put qualifiers of your good character into your comment or reaction to the post, consider this an encouragement to re-read paragraphs of Rosie’s contribution starting with “Women do not owe you anything.” Paragraph 6, through the end.
-If you further specifically feel the need to bring your religion, and how ardent a follower you assume yourself to be, into a conversation where it did not previously have a home, potentially ask yourself why you feel it necessary.
-To reiterate: to strip that post down to a woman being passionate and “not totally incorrect” is relegating the author to a being who only succeeds in have emotion, but not logic. This is infantilizing, this is discrediting, this is contributing to furthering the muting of women’s voices, and this is certainly not learning that “With privilege, sometimes what we need to do is listen.”
Though I spent nearly two hours reading your blogs, “Creepy” part I and II both caught my attention the most (particularly II). As I was not offended by your outlook on the first Creepy blog, your daughters words most definitely triggered some emotions inside of me that I feel most women have a hard time expressing. I literally cried. In my opinion, the word “creepy” can mean many things to many people. In fact, there are a whole bunch of other words I would use to define a man that acts in inappropriate ways toward a woman, whether he is aware of it or not. The problem is that everyone (whether male or female) is constantly pulling the “victim” card. However, I couldn’t agree more with your daughter’s view, as well as the term she used: “de-escalation”. The part I feel that SOME men (not all) forget to recognize is the amount of physical power that they posses over a woman; and I mean this in the same context that men are literally not allowed to hit women because of this. A man’s UNWANTED sexually harassing behavior can spark a fear in a woman in almost the same way a physical encounter can. Which is why the word “de-escalating” hit home for me. It’s almost like women are programmed to avoid conflict with a man out of fear for what could come of it. Your explanation in the first Creepy blog made complete sense, though I would personally be likely to use the word “awkward” to describe somebody who is acting in he behavior in which you spoke of. I see from both points of view (yours, as well as your daughters). I believe the terms used to describe such behaviors are what the argument is based off of. I enjoyed all of your blogs by the way!!